Styrene, also known as vinyl benzene, as well as many other names, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. Under normal conditions, this aromatic hydrocarbon is an oily liquid. It evaporates easily and has a sweet smell; high concentrations have a less pleasant odor. Styrene is an important synthetic material used in the making of foam, rubber, and plastic products including insulation, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, pipes, automobile and boat parts, food containers, and carpet backing.
The US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that human exposure to high levels of styrene may induce adverse nervous system effects. These health effects include changes in color vision, tiredness, feeling drunk, slowed reaction time, concentration problems, or balance problems. Styrene is also classified as an ototoxin. Ototoxins-- "ear poisons" -- are substances that can cause hearing impairment. Like any chemical hazard, they can be ingested, absorbed or inhaled into the body. Studies have shown that excessive exposure to styrene on its own is enough to induce hearing loss. More severe effects can result when ototoxin exposure is combined with noise exposure. In fact, some researchers indicate that even when noise and chemicals are at permissible exposure levels, the impact of a combined exposure can do more damage than a higher exposure to either hazard alone. The result can be mild hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or total deafness. Styrene is also classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The EPA has described styrene as "a suspected carcinogen" and "a suspected toxin to the gastrointestinal, kidney, and respiratory systems, among others.’
EMSL Analytical / LA Testing has many years of experience analyzing Styrene in the workplace, home and throughout the environment using EPA, NIOSH, and OSHA methodologies. EMSL Analytical / LA Testing has several locations throughout the U.S. and Canada and provides sampling media, and sampling pumps at no charge. Industrial Hygiene products, supplies and equipment are also available.
The following links provide more information for workplace exposure limit, sampling information, sampling resources and supplies.